[News] Brazil’s Disastrous 2018 Presidential Race Teaches Key Lesson For All: Demagogues Thrive Only When Establishments Fail

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 6 11:06:22 EDT 2018


  Brazil’s Disastrous 2018 Presidential Race Teaches Key Lesson For All:
  Demagogues Thrive Only When Establishments Fail

Glenn Greenwald <https://theintercept.com/staff/glenn-greenwald/>, 
Victor Pougy <https://theintercept.com/staff/victorpougy/>- August 5 2018

_Brazil’s media,_ legal, judicial and corporate factions have spent the 
last three years righteously insisting that systemic political 
corruption is the nation’s gravest problem. They were so terribly 
upset about corruption that, in 2016, they united, with almost no 
dissent permitted, in support of the most drastic step a democracy can 
take: removal of the elected President 
Dilma Rousseff, before her term expired.

That indignation over corruption and criminality was their /pretext/ for 
impeachment, not the actual motive, was painfully obvious from the 
start. By removing Dilma, they knowingly empowered actual criminals and 
gangsters, people whose thieving and mobster behavior make Dilma’s 
budgetary tricks look like jaywalking. In the pantheon of organized 
criminality that rules post-impeachment Brasília, “pedaladas” – the 
pedestrian budgetary maneuver used to justify Dilma’s removal – sounds 
so quaint that it’s hard to believe Globo stars and pro-impeachment 
centrist functionaries kept a straight face when pretending that it 
infuriated them.

The career sleaze they installed as President, Michel Temer, then got 
caught on tape 
ordering the payment of bribes to silence the literal gangster, Eduardo 
Cunha, Temer’s party comrade who, as House Speaker, lead the impeachment 
proceeding against Dilma and is now in prison 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/world/americas/eduardo-cunha-brazil-sentenced-prison.html>. The 
same Congress that removed the elected President with flamboyant 
speeches about their disgust for corruption, has spent the last two 
years receiving legalized bribes from Temer to protect him from 
for his bribery and other crimes, and – bribery tapes and all – keep him 
ensconced in the presidential palace.

The fraud of all this is too enormous to express with words, but no 
words are needed because of how self-evident it is.

_But now,_ with their behavior in the 2018 election, whatever credible 
remnants remained of the ethical masks worn by these media stars and the 
oligarchical families that own them 
<https://rsf.org/en/news/brazil-falls-press-freedom-index-now-104th> has 
completely eroded. What the Brazilian media is now doing is so extremely 
corrupt and so transparently deceitful that – no matter how low your 
standards are for judging them – no words suffice to express the 
revulsion that it merits.

In the 2018 presidential race, Brazil’s oligarchic press is openly 
united behind São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, the ultimate 
establishment figure from the conservative PSDB party. He can be 
accurately described to an American audience as a 
somewhat more conservative, cautious version of Hillary Clinton: he’s 
been around politics for decades, funded by and serving corporate 
interests, inoffensively occupying every conceivable office, comfortably 
resting in and feeding off of the sleaze and neoliberal corruption that 
greases the wheels of Brazil’s political class.

He’s the ultimate guardian of the status quo and the prevailing order. A 
candidate so uniquely uncharasmatic on all levels that he’s most often 
compared to a cucumber – to the point where Cucumber is his effective 
nickname – his last bid for the presidency in 2006 resulted in a 
21-point crushing defeat at the hands of Lula. He’s basically Jeb Bush, 
but less bold, less exciting and with less popular support.

For good reason, Alckmin’s primary political tactic is hiding. He 
doesn’t hold rallies, because nobody, other than those suffering from 
insomnia, would want to attend. His quest for power is dependent 
exclusively on sketchy backroom deals between power-brokers carried out 
in the dark, accompanied by massive amounts of money from the 
oligarchical interests he serves – exactly the legalized corruption that 
has destroyed Brazilian politics (and, for that matter, American 
politics), and that the country’s media pretends to find so objectionable.

For all of 2018, despite the unconcealed love which Brazil’s dominant 
media outlets harbor for him, polls have showed Alckmin lingering 
pitifully at 6-7% 
Just as is true in the U.S., the UK and throughout Western Europe, huge 
numbers of voters are so contemptuous of the establishment class that 
they will refuse to vote for anyone supported by or associated with them.

With the actual presidential poll leader, former President Lula da 
Silva, imprisoned and almost certain to be barred from running, the 
three candidates consistently at the top of the 2018 polls are perceived 
(rightly or wrongly) as outsiders: the genuinely fascist Congressman 
Jair Bolsonaro, who craves a return of military rule and all year long 
has maintained a large lead in all Lula-excluding polls; Marina Silva, a 
soft-spoken, black, evangelical, socially conservative environmentalist 
from the Amazon region; and Ciro Gomes, an extremely shrewd left-wing 
career politician who is nonetheless without allies or coalitions 
(thanks to a hopelessly fractured left) and has always been and still is 
perceived as a rebellious disrupter.

Brazil’s establishment – led, as always, by the huge media outlets 
<https://www.economist.com/business/2014/06/05/globo-domination> controlled 
by a tiny group of billionaire families 
<https://rsf.org/en/news/brazil-falls-press-freedom-index-now-104th> – 
has spent all of 2018 panicking because, no matter how hard they try to 
resuscitate it, the decayed corpse of Geraldo Alckmin has remained lifeless.

_Establishment panic_ last week manifested in one last-ditch effort to 
save Alckmin. The Cucumber unveiled a broad new coalition 
with numerous other parties, composing what the media is calling the 
“centrist” bloc: by which they mean nothing other than “not Lula and not 
Bolsonaro.” On Saturday, he announced his Vice Presidential running 
mate: Ana Amélia of the far-right “Progressive Party”.

To put it mildly, there is nothing “centrist” about any of this. 
Amélia’s party, which would be swept into power by an Alckmin win, was 
Bolsonaro’s political home until 2015. Its origins go back to support 
for the right-wing military dictatorship 
that ruled the country for 21 years, until 1985, as a result of a 
U.S.-supported coup in 1964 that forcibly removed the country’s elected 
left-wing government.

Back then, Amélia was a journalist who wrote in support of the 
dictatorship, and was married to a Senator who served under, and was 
chosen by, the military rulers. Her current political views would fall 
comfortably on the far right end of the political spectrum even in the 
new politics of the U.S. and Europe.

Just several weeks ago, after the Workers Party (PT) President gave an 
interview to Al Jazeera denouncing Lula’s imprisonment, Amélia went to 
the Senate floor and  – in an almost perfectly balanced mix of hateful 
xenophobia and ignorance – confused and conflated “Al Jazeera” with “Al 
Qaeda,” and thus accused the PT President of speaking to terrorists and 
inciting the “Islamic Army” against Brazil.

As bad as all that is, ideological extremism is the least revealing part 
of this charade. This massive coalition of parties now aligned behind 
Alckmin is designed to ensure that he controls the bulk of money and 
television time that Brazil’s short election cycle permits: basically to 
shove Alckmin down the throats of voters with so much force, so much 
money, propaganda, and establishment power, that Brazilians end 
up ingesting him by involuntary reflex, the way one tricks a dog into 
swallowing a bitter-tasting pill by manipulating its throat muscles.

But here’s the most stunning fact, the one that forever reveals the 
Brazilian media for what it really is. The party with which Alckmin has 
chosen to most closely align, Ana Amélia’s PP, is the one /most 
implicated/ by the four-year-old corruption probe 
sweeping the country. Of the 56 elected federal lawmakers affiliated 
with this party, 31 of them – more than half! – have criminal corruption 
charges currently pending against them.

In order to run for President as an anti-corruption outsider,/even 
Bolsonaro///had to leave this sewer of bribery and theft masquerading as 
a political party. While Amélia is not one of the indicted, Alckmin’s 
victory will sweep her and her fundamentally criminal party along with 
her into the highest levels of power.

And Amélia herself is no beacon of ethical leadership: after devoting 
her journalism to defending the dictatorship, she got her political 
start when she was hired for a full-time, no-show job by her 
pro-dictatorship Senator-husband, at the same time that she worked 
full-time as a “journalist” churning out pro-dictatorship agitprop. And 
Alckmin himself, just by the way, stands accused 
of having received millions of dollars in illegal, unreported funds from 
oligarchs to fund his prior campaigns.

So this is the organized crime ring that is poised to return to 
political power, carried on the backs of the media groups and 
self-styled serious Globo News TV political experts who have spent the 
last several years prancing around like ethics-demanding peacocks, 
delivering righteous speeches about the evils of corruption and the 
supreme urgency of stopping it.

So we are now about to witness the revolting spectacle of the very 
same Globo stars and centrist political columnists who demanded the 
removal of an elected President due to trivial budgetary tricks, march 
in unison to empower two of the most corrupt political parties in Latin 
America, one of which literally holds the record for Most Officials 
Indicted by the Lava Jato Corruption Probe.

_The vital point_ that U.S., British and western European elites – still 
traumatized by and incapable of explaining Trump, Brexit and the rise of 
über-nationalistic parties – have spent two years desperately evading is 
now also more vivid than ever in Brazil. Authoritarianism does not 
sprout up randomly. Demagogues cannot thrive when political institutions 
are healthy, just and equitable.

Threats to liberal democracy and the erosion of political liberties are 
possible only when the population loses faith, trust and confidence in 
institutions of authority. That is when societies become vulnerable to 
appeals by those who threaten – or who promise – to burn it all down. 
That is when media outlets and experts lose their ability to warn the 
public of lies and dangers: because the public, for good reason, sees 
those institutions and those experts not as guardians against dangers, 
deceit and suffering but as prime perpetrators of them.

When the population sees those authorities as the author of their 
suffering, then denunciations of Trump, Brexit, Marine LePen and 
Bolsonaro are not just ineffective but counter-productive. The more 
someone is hated by the once-elevated-but-now-despised precincts of 
elite authority, the more attractive their targets of scorn become.

The elite factions in the U.S, the U.K. and democracies throughout 
Europe have been learning this lesson the hard way. And now, so, too, 
are Brazilian elites. Behavior like what we are now witnessing – 
coalescing behind a monumentally corrupt coalition, whose only purpose 
is to maintain and extend the old, corrupt order, after having spent 
years pretending that they wanted the opposite – is precisely why they 
have lost all credibility and authority to stop true threats to democracy.

If Brazilian media, financial and political elites want to understand 
why Brazilian democracy is rapidly unraveling, their time is not best 
spent staring at, dissecting and denouncing Bolsonaro. Far more useful 
in seeing the true causes of Brazil’s plight would be a very large mirror.

After they’re done using it, they can pass it to their North American 
and European elite counterparts, who, reflected in it, will also see the 
real sources of the anti-democratic, authoritarian trends they spend all 
their time impotently denouncing.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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